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NVN goes to Google!

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What do the Financial Times, 9 Now and the Northern Valleys News have in common? We all contributed as presenters and panellists at the 2023 Google News Initiative Summit in Sydney on 9 August!

Tamieka and I were there, flying the flag for independent regional publishers, along with Keer Moriarty from Queensland, owner of the Canungra Times and Beaudesert Bulletin. Keer was a fellow participant in Project Kookaburra, the research project we participated in last year, facilitated by Megan Brownlow, who led our panel discussion.

The ‘Digital Sustainability for Regional Publishers’ segment followed an in-depth presentation from Anil Jain, Managing Director of Strategic Consumer Industries at Google, covering embracing the cloud, data and Gen AI as forces of change. A swift gear change to then hear from publishers who — while enthusiastically paddling in digital waters — still very much have a print media publication front and centre.

The aim of Project Kookaburra was to help regional publishers test financially sustainable digital pathways, and it was through this initiative that we developed our weekly newsletter, the NVN Weekly. As part of our presentation, we discussed how we built subscribers and promoted the NVN Weekly, how we use evergreen content, and our experiences tweaking aspects such as tag lines and send times.

Tamieka said, “Running a regional newspaper certainly hasn’t taken us very far from the Northern Valleys before. We were thrilled to be asked to part of Project Kookaburra and this Google News Summit.

“Whilst we felt a little out of our depth, it was reassuring to connect with other publishers from all over the country, inspiring to meet innovators in the digital space, and grounding to reconnect with why we do what we do! Sharing the stories of our wonderful community and being the curators of our region’s history is certainly a role we feel privileged to play.”

I think this (along with some helpful, practical tips for working in a digital space) was my biggest takeaway from the event too. One of the questions Megan asked all the panellists was: “Why are you in the business, what drives you?” My response, prepared prior to the event was: “I believe it is a privileged position to be able to provide a platform and amplify local voices that bigger organisations generally are not interested in. To share the efforts and expertise of our local businesses, producers, our community groups, and volunteers —  and be immersed in their world and get swept up in their enthusiasm when telling their story is lovely.”

As the day progressed, amongst all the high-level conversations around personalised content, paywalls, and data-driven innovation, I was even more sure of my answer! How lucky we are to be so connected to our audience. I am confident any digital resources we develop can only enhance this connection, especially considering the great feedback we receive from subscribers of the NVN Weekly.

To my surprise, we were approached by many attendees in the networking opportunity after the event who commented that our panel was up there with the best. It was great to see that our presentation resonated with such a diverse range of publishers.
Many thanks to Megan for her mentoring during Project Kookaburra, and to Google News’s Chris Burgess and team for the opportunity to attend and for organising our trip. I would also like to thank Shane Love MLA for recognising our involvement in the Google News Initiative Summit in his member’s statement to parliament on 17 August.

Lastly, thank you to our advertisers, citizens journalists, readers and everybody who makes the NVN such a valued community resource.